It's true, everything we need to know, we truly do learn in Kindergarten. In our next Real Talk, Essays from Real Life, Linda Davis bravely shares her strategy to cope with the distress, find calm, and get through the tough moments when your parenting worries and fears are running nonstop.
Do you ever wonder if you’re the only one struggling with bumps and pitfalls on a daily basis? Listen to Real Talk: Essays from Real Life, straight from the CATCH Journal at catchiscommunity.org.
We’re recording those heartfelt and honest stories from parents and others for those who’d rather listen than read. When you hear people share their most vulnerable moments, you’ll know you are not alone.
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© CATCH 2022
PMHG Podcast music "3 Water Springs" by Ian Post
Essay music provided by Escalante Music/ Pond5
CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health, is a 501(c)3 that provides support and education for families around mental health topics. Original content and materials from CATCH and its collaborators are for informational purposes only. They are provided as a general resource and are not specific to any person or circumstance.
© CATCH 2022
I excel in worrying. Ruminating. Fretting. Agonizing. I do my best work in the middle of the night, when the most ridiculous possibility feels inevitable. Being an open-minded type, I don’t limit myself to factual worry. I can do good worrying whether there is actually something to worry about or not.
A few years ago, life circumstances started giving me more material than I could handle. My daughter was struggling, and my own fear and anxiety was interfering with her recovery. I sought out some professional help for myself, hoping to learn and accept that her journey was not mine, that I could not “fix” things no matter how hard I tried, and that my worrying was not productive.
Intellectually, I was able to understand how I had become almost immobilized by my worries. But changing my behavior was a bigger task, especially in the heated moments of her chaos. I needed an automatic response to my worries. I had to know exactly what to do in the middle of a situation when I didn’t have time to think, and in the middle of the night, when I had too much.
I needed an immediate go-to plan like the one we teach our children to use if their clothes catch on fire.
Over time, I devised a strategy—my own Stop, Drop, and Roll—that I can regularly put into action without having to think it through. It is relatively simple, and the more I use it, the more effective it becomes.
The first step is to STOP believing there is only one acceptable outcome to a situation. I can be overly invested in having things turn out the way I planned them and stubborn in my convictions that any deviation from what is “supposed” to happen will be a disaster. I need to remind myself that the world is a very big place, with endless stories and possibilities and that I’m not responsible for creating and directing all the action. Admitting that I’m not in charge can be terribly disappointing, but also somewhat comforting. Of course, I can think of many times when things have worked out just fine, sometimes even better than fine, when at first, they seemed to not be working out at all. But remembering this takes time and energy that I don’t have when my mind is racing, so I’ve learned to tell myself to just STOP.
The second step is to DROP. Not literally, although it can be tempting. Instead, I begin to shift my attention out of my head and drop my focus down into my body. I think about slowing down my breathing and seeing if my muscles are tense. I might take a brisk walk to release some nervous energy or listen to a meditation app. This all sounds absurdly easy, and I am sure it is for some people. But not for me. I have to work on this very deliberately, knowing that I can create a physical quietness for myself even when I am bumping through emotional turbulence.
The third step is to ROLL, and it is by far the most difficult. Imagine a marble rolling across the floor or a wave rolling onto the beach. Change has taken place, but the marble and the wave were not actively directing themselves. Rather, they were propelled by another force. In my case, the force is time. I need to wait for some time to pass and let myself roll with the action. Usually something interesting happens if I have the patience to see what it is. This waiting philosophy challenges every basic instinct I have to jump in and fix or solve a problem. It is especially hard to pause when I’m watching someone I care about stumble through a situation. Sometimes it makes me feel so helpless that I have to go back to step one and start over. Of course this does not apply to physical danger or emergencies. But that’s the tricky part. I used to believe that everything was an emergency. Now I’m a little better at knowing.
I wish I could say that I’ve learned to approach every crisis, big and small, with quiet grace and confidence, and that I have perfected the Stop, Drop, and Roll. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Sometimes I’m still running in circles with my shirt on fire. But now I know what to do.
#mentalhealthmatters #endthestigma #stopdropandroll